When making a list of target schools there are a lot of things to consider. My first list was the culmination of very little research and there was no reasoning behind any of the choices besides proximity and name recognition. For the most part I picked a bunch of schools at all levels of college baseball that were on the East Coast. I did not take into account their academic strengths, level of baseball, campus life, or recruiting situation at my position and because of this it ended up being a fairly ineffective list. In order for you to have a helpful list of target schools you need to narrow your search. The exercise of creating this list will also help you work through what you truly want out of college and the type of school you want to call home at the end of this recruiting process. This list will not be the end all be all. To be honest there is a good chance the school you end up attending and playing for won’t be on the first list you make. There are a lot of schools and a lot of players that want to play in college. You may not end up at your dream school, but there is a place for you to play in college baseball if you work hard enough and smart enough during your high school years. If you do the research into the type of school you might want, you will have a better chance of ending up somewhere that will make you happy. In this article I am going to teach you how to effectively create a list of target schools, the components that should go in to making that list, and how to adjust that list as your recruiting process progresses.
The first thing you should think about when looking at schools for the first time is what degree you want to get. If you want to study environmental policy, but the schools you are looking at have do not have the classes or departments to support that desire than you either need to look elsewhere or decide that you are okay with studying something else. You should also consider how reputable the department is that you are looking to be a part of. If a school has a renowned engineering degree and that’s what you want to study, then that is a good reason to put that school at the top of your list. A lot of kids focus solely on baseball. I understand that baseball is the most important aspect of the college experience for a lot of kids going through this process, just like it was for me. However, very few kids get to continue playing after college so it is important to make sure that you are setting yourself up for life after baseball as well as focusing on what will make you college baseball experience the best it can be.
I am from Falls Church, Virginia, which is about 15 minutes South of Washington D.C. My first school, College of Charleston, was 9 hours South. Then after two years I moved another 6 hours South to Marianna, Florida. Then after that year, I moved about 10 hours West to Ruston, Louisiana. Each move took me further South and got progressively more rural, which was not what I was used to growing up in Northern Virginia. That being said, I loved every second of my journey and learned to love every place that I ended up calling home during my time in college. For me, proximity to my hometown was not important, I just wanted to play baseball. However, that is not the case for a lot of kids. There are many kids that move to far from home and go into culture shock and end up transferring because they can’t handle that big of a change.
You also should think about what you want for your college experience outside of baseball. Do you want to be in a city, college town, or a small rural town? Do you want to go to a school that has a big college football scene etc.? You are going to have a lot of great experiences outside of baseball in college, so you need to think about what you want those experiences to look like.
If you are happy with where you are, you are going to be more comfortable and you are going play better, which will make you happier, and around the carousel you go. These are some things that you need to think about before you choose your college destination. I’m not saying that you are going to be able to predict how much you like your new college destination, but if you think about the importance of location first, you will give yourself the best chance to be happy at the first school you go to.
The conference you play in and the out-of-conference games that you play are factors you should take into account as well. Playing against top schools is going to help you develop your physical and mental game. Playing in competitive environments in front of a lot of fans is a very memorable part of college baseball. Also, if you are trying to play at the professional level, playing against good competition will let you show your skills against the best and if you perform in that environment, you really help your chances of getting noticed by professional scouts. Another thing to think about is how often the schools you are looking at make it to the postseason. If you want to play past college, this is a great place to showcase your game, in front of pro scouts, against great competition and a lot of players at smaller schools get noticed during this time of year simply because they get in front of the right people and are given a chance to show what they can do against the best players in the country.
How a school develops its’ player is going to be something that you have to research more once you shrink your list, but it is always something you should be thinking about. Does a school consistently help their kids improve and play at the next level? How well do the coaches teach? You have four years to get better in college and the school and coaches play a huge role in how much you are able to do that. Are the coaches going to be able to help you when you inevitably struggle or are they just going to move on to the next guy and leave you to figure it out? How do you know these things? Try looking at rosters year to year and see how many guys are transferring. Schools that have happy players who like their coach tend not to have a lot of transfers year to year. These things matter a lot when thinking about the schools you want to target because if you truly want to reach your potential, you need people who are going to help and support that journey.
The most important thing you need to ask yourself is, will I be happy here outside of baseball? If you can answer yes, then start to pursue that school, if the answer is no right off the bat, for whatever reason, leave them off the list because if you aren’t happy outside of baseball, you are going to have a bad college experience. If you can focus your search early on in the process, it will help guide your decision making overall and give you a better chance of choosing the best school for you at the end of the recruiting process. As the process progresses you can change your search or narrow your search. You can look at lower level D-1 schools, D2, D3, or Junior Colleges. All of these levels have great schools that play great competition. If you think you are too good for these levels, then you are letting your ego get in the way of your success. My junior college team had 10 draft picks. If you are young, you can afford to have a broader list with more reach schools. If you are a senior, you probably want to really narrow your search to schools you believe you can play at and get into with your academics. The later you get in the process the more important it is to have a focused list so you can effectively target the schools you have a chance to play at. The important thing to remember is that as you change your list, you need to keep in mind what style of school you want and continue to target that environment. This will put you in a much better position to make the best decision possible at the end of this process.